Four years ago, Matt Hamilton showed up at the Winter Olympics with two basic goals. He believed both were attainable. Neither involved actually winning a gold medal.
The first was to use his time as an Olympic curler to promote mustache awareness, or more specifically encourage more people to grow glorious 'staches like his.
“It’s a look, man,” the Wisconsin native said. “You’ve got to be confident with it. You’ve got to just go with it and walk around thinking, ‘I’m repping a mustache.’ If you are unsure about it, it’ll show in your body language.”
Goal No. 2? Get Aaron Rodgers, the quarterback of Hamilton’s favorite team, the Green Bay Packers, to tweet at him. Rodgers took care of that by tweeting “pulling for you and your mustache this Olympic Games.”
Rodgers included the #strongstachegame, which, Hamilton is sure, helped with goal No. 1 and is why, Hamilton believes, there are far more mustaches in the United States in 2022 than there were in 2018.
“It’s all because of me,” he deadpanned.
Those were innocent days, a fun loving, then-29-year-old making his first Olympics on a curling team with low/no expectations. Then the U.S. went out and won the gold courtesy of a five-game heater of a winning streak. It was dubbed “The Miracurl.”
Hamilton said he celebrated by having a McFlurry.
Four years later the group — John Shuster, Tyler George, John Landsteiner and Hamilton — is back and just being here or getting NFL players to make mustache jokes isn’t enough. The Americans want to repeat for gold, or, at the very least, reach the four-team playoff.
That makes Thursday's game (Wednesday night in the U.S.) against Denmark a massive event. The U.S. needs a victory and some help with various tiebreakers to advance.
Hamilton is a competitor, so he wants another crack at the podium. He also wants the additional exposure of the playoffs because he’s playing for more than just the jokes this time.
This time he partnered with StacheStrong, a charity that has raised $1.75 million for research and clinical trials in the fight against brain cancer.
It was founded in 2017 by Colin Gerner as a way to carry on the fight of his brother, GJ, who was known for his robust mustache, before succumbing to the disease at age 29. The mustache angle made it a natural partnership.
“Every dollar raised goes to research,” Hamilton said. “Everyone associated with it volunteers. Here are these people dedicating hours and hours of work just to try to make the world a better place. So I wanted to be a part of that because cancer affects everybody in some way, shape or form.”
For Hamilton, that includes an uncle who was recently diagnosed with brain cancer. It’s part of the reason he’s looking to use every chance the Olympics provide to raise money to defeat the disease, either through direct donations or merchandise sales on the Team Shuster website.
In addition to the stache, Hamilton has grown out his hair, adding flowing locks to his look. Sometimes he ties it up in a bun. Other times he let’s it flow in all its glory, like he’s at the helm of a Harley. It is more than just for fun.
Hamilton is currently taking sponsors for a post Olympics trim, with all proceeds going to StacheStrong. His initial goal of $5,000 has been surpassed and he’s now looking to hit $10,000.
“Cancer has affected everyone,” Hamilton said. “If having my hair look ridiculous at the Olympics helps in the fight against it, then something good is coming out of this.”
The hair itself will go to “Wigs for Children,” which Hamilton says is also a 100 percent volunteer organization to help kids who lose their hair due to cancer treatments.
Hamilton is a bit of a celebrity now. He’s impossible to ignore. Add in a sleeve of tattoos and colorful, custom Nike curling shoes and he’s redefining what the sport looks like. He’s still an everyman, just with some flair.
He’s done interviews, thrown out first pitches, even met Rodgers at a celebrity Pro-Am golf tournament. He’s about to start a new job as an afternoon host of ESPN Madison sports radio.
“Lots of Badgers and Packers talk,” he said.
As much as he loves curling, he’ll talk with even more passion about whether Green Bay should re-sign Rodgers — “can’t just let a Hall of Famer walk away.”
He started curling for fun and then made curling fun for everyone.
“It’s curling, he said. “It’s supposed to be fun.”
So the goals are bigger now. The gold propelled him to greater heights and now he’s trying to extend another Olympic run to make it matter.
Those interested in the charity can visit www.stachestrong.org